McCurdy 7th grade at the Rio Chama

We have quite a few new classrooms this year, and one of these is made up of the 7th grade science classes at McCurdy Charter School in Española, NM. These students are at a wonderful age to learn. They’re old enough to understand a little more than elementary school students, but they’re still so excited to learn!

For our first trip, we headed to the Rio Chama below Abiquiu Dam. Students split into three groups to test water quality, search for benthic macroinvertebrates, and complete a scavenger hunt that allows students to learn about their environment.

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Selecting a benthic macroinvertebrate from a tub of water from the Rio Chama

We met with these students last week and discussed the importance of water quality and benthic macroinvertebrates, so they were excited to get started collecting data!

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A student examines a mayfly with a microscope.

Once again, the rangers with US Army Corps of Engineers at Abiquiu Lake came through with expertise and assistance. We like to introduce our students to possible careers in environmental science, and our ranger explained why he loves his job (apparently getting to drive a boat and ride a jet ski at work are big draws).

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A Rio Chama resident

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A mayfly clinging to a rock.

We’ll be meeting with these students once per month all year, so keep checking in to see what we’re up to!

Christy

Introducing our 7th-9th grade Española River Classroom!

For the very first time this year, NMWC is getting to work with GATE students in 7th-9th grades in the Española Public School District! You may recognize a few familiar faces- some of these students are graduates of our 4th-6th grade River Classroom.

We have a very exciting year planned for these young scientists- we’ll be building kayaks and using them to learn about buoyancy, density, and resistance, as well as exploring riparian and lake ecosystems of northern New Mexico. This is a pretty long task list for the year, and we got off to a great start by learning how to paddle on Abiquiu Lake. Once again, our friends with the US Army Corps of Engineers greatly helped us out with loaner life jackets!

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Students carry boats and paddles to the water.

It was the very first time these students have ever been in a canoe or a kayak.

Launching the kayak!
Launching the kayak!
Canoeing in front of Pedernal
Canoeing in front of Pedernal

Everybody got the hang of it pretty quickly, and we went on an adventure down the lakeshore. It got fairly warm, and a few students decided to jump in and cool off.

Cooling off in Abiquiu Lake
Cooling off in Abiquiu Lake
Learning a few tricks of the trade from our expert paddler
Learning a few tricks of the trade from our expert paddler
Paddling around a buoy
Paddling around a buoy

Part of the philosophy of this class is that people must experience and enjoy the outdoors in order to feel a sense of ownership. Besides learning important science skills, these students are learning to enjoy being outdoors. We hope that this will lead to a group of students who work to protect and conserve our vital habitats in northern New Mexico.

Headed out into the open lake!
Headed out into the open lake!

This class is an absolutely fantastic group of kids who are very motivated and learn quickly. We can’t wait to see what the year holds!

Christy

Abiquiu Summer Science Camp

Last week was our first Summer Science Camp! We held it at Abiquiu Lake.

As you can see, we had a fantastic group of 10 kids (not all are shown below).

Picking up campers at a local institution.
Picking up campers at a local institution.

Each day students learned a new aspect of science: identifying local plants and animals or learning about density and buoyancy.

Heading off on a hike along the Rio Chama.
Heading off on a hike along the Rio Chama.
Identifying and recording life forms along the Rio Chama.
Identifying and recording life forms along the Rio Chama.
Learning about buoyancy,
Learning about buoyancy.
Weighing objects in a given volume to calculate density.
Weighing objects in a given volume to calculate density.
Using our new-found knowledge of buoyancy to build sailboats.
Using our new-found knowledge of buoyancy to build sailboats.
Taking a closer look at a local resident.
Taking a closer look at a local resident.

We also learned some important skills, like knot tying, how to canoe and kayak, and for one participant, how to swim.

Practicing knots.
Practicing knots.
Learning a new knot.
Learning a new knot.
Boating requires teamwork!
Boating requires teamwork!
Canoeing across Abiquiu Lake.
Canoeing across Abiquiu Lake.
Hooray for Abiquiu Lake!
Hooray for Abiquiu Lake!

We’re very grateful to our partners with the US Army Corps of Engineers at Abiquiu Lake for loaning us life jackets and making it possible for us to reserve a group shelter to keep out of the hot sun during the day and for camping on Thursday night. This camp would not have been possible without life jackets to keep us safe!

Ranger Austin explains why ducks float and children don't (without a life jacket).
Ranger Austin explains why ducks float and children don’t (without a life jacket).

      On Thursday night, a few parents joined us, and we spent the night at Abiquiu Lake.

A camper stands beside his tent.
A camper stands beside his tent.

We roasted hot dogs, cooked s’mores, and watched the stars. We observed the moons of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn with a telescope.

Campers watching the night sky.
Campers watching the night sky.

After our camp out, we cleaned up way more than just our group shelter! We wanted to leave the campground cleaner than we found it.

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Campers with the trash they picked up.

It was a fantastic week, and we’re looking forward to offering this camp on more than one week next year!

Life jackets drying after a long day in the water.
Life jackets drying after a long day in the water.

Christy

Last River Classroom of the Year

Last Wednesday was our last River Classroom of the year. The students have worked very hard this year, and we’ve learned a great deal about energy, our local riparian and lake environments, and how to assess the health of these important ecosystems. After all of this learning, we took a day to enjoy the beauty of northern New Mexico.

We skipped rocks.

Students selecting the perfect rocks for skipping.
Students selecting the perfect rocks for skipping.
What kinds of energy are involved in skipping rocks?
What kinds of energy are involved in skipping rocks?
Who can skip a rock the farthest?
Who can skip a rock the farthest?

Our fantastic bus driver, Mario, won the contest for the most skips.

This one went almost all the way across!
This one went almost all the way across!

A few of the students wanted to swim. We made a deal that if the water was warmer than 65 degrees F, they could swim.

Unfortunately (for them), it was only 59 degrees.

Testing the water temperature.
Testing the water temperature.

Instead of swimming, students had to be content with sitting on the edge of the lake and having a contest to see who could keep their feet in the water the longest.

Toes in the water!
Toes in the water!

Everybody found different ways to explore Abiquiu Lake.

A few students watched waterfowl through a scope.

Watching eared grebes through the scope.
Watching eared grebes through the scope.

A few students explored potholes in the rock, which were full of rain from the night before. We tested the pH of the rainwater and found that it was considerably lower than the lake and river water.

Checking out a pothole in a rock.
Checking out a pothole in a rock.

Most students were content to explore the lake shore and check out the incredible views.

Hopping along the shore.
Hopping along the shore.
Gorgeous skies with cumulus clouds!
Gorgeous skies with cumulus clouds!

The day’s main event was a picnic, complete with hot dogs! Our USACE rangers helped us reserve a group shelter and joined in the fun.

Mario, chef and bus driver extraordinaire.
Mario, chef and bus driver extraordinaire.
Having another hot dog.
Having another hot dog.

Finally, after a group trash pick up, we all went on a hike to work off that big lunch.

Hiking across the new bridge.
Hiking across the new bridge.

It was sad to say goodbye to our students for the summer.

Goodbye for now!
Goodbye for now!

We have a number of exciting events planned for this summer, and then we’ll see our wonderful River Classroom students again in the fall!

Christy

Earth Day at Abiquiu Lake

Last Wednesday was Earth Day, but our celebration with the US Army Corps of Engineers at Abiquiu Lake wasn’t until last Saturday.

We met at the Visitor’s Center at 9 am, where guests got to meet two of NMWC’s most spectacular residents, Grace the Golden Eagle and Electra the Osprey.

Listening to Katherine Eagleson explain the habits of golden eagles.
Listening to Katherine Eagleson explain the habits of golden eagles.
Katherine with Grace, the Golden Eagle.
Katherine with Grace, the Golden Eagle.
Electra the Osprey
Electra the Osprey

After seeing these two, we headed out with the USACE rangers to survey the birds around the east side of Abiquiu Lake.

Water safety is first and foremost!
Water safety is first and foremost!
Braving the wind and chilly temperatures in the name of science.
Braving the wind and chilly temperatures in the name of science.

Below is our final bird list for the day.

Bird List for Earth Day at Abiquiu Lake

4/25/15

  • 1 Great Blue Heron
  • 10 Canada Geese
  • 15 Western Grebes
  • 2 Ring-billed Gulls
  • 5 Pie-Billed Grebes
  • 45 Coots
  • 1 Red-Tailed Hawk
  • 2 Ravens
  • 1 Ruddy Duck (F)
  • 1 Rock Wren
  • 20 Double-Crested Cormorant nests with around 40 Cormorants
  • 3 Goose nests
  • Several Mallards
  • 1 Golden Eagle (not Grace!)
  • 2 Turkey Vultures
  • 1 Osprey (not Electra!)
  • 1 Cooper’s Hawk

Christy

Testing the Water Wheels

Last Wednesday was the big day… the day that River Classroom finally got to test the water wheels that we’ve spent all year building! We didn’t hook up generators to the wheels yet. We just wanted to make sure they spin.

The Rio Chama is up quite a bit, so first we had to review wader safety.

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Students demonstrate how deep they are allowed to wade.
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Carrying the water wheel to the river was hard work!
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Debating where the water wheel should go.
It works!
It works!

All of that testing was difficult work, but we still managed to find some time to have fun exploring the river ecosystem!

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Learning about cottonwood trees!

After lunch the wind really picked up ahead of a cold front, and it was just too cold to get back in the river and search for benthic macroinvertebrates, so we decided to explore a different area of the Abiquiu Lake ecosystem.

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Testing out a new bridge and a new trail!
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Learning about cairns.
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Hiking around the lake.
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Leaning into the wind and watching the waves.
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The class entering “the splash zone”.

The fantastic thing about having class outside is that there’s always more to learn. On our hike we talked about cairns, the importance of staying on trail to minimize our impact on the landscape, how wind is caused by pressure gradient force, and why certain wind directions produce larger waves on Abiquiu Lake.

We even ended up seeing some wildflowers!

First primrose of the year!
First primrose of the year!

Christy